Khadr apologizes to family of dead soldier

In this pentagon-approved photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Canadian detainee Omar...

In this pentagon-approved photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Canadian detainee Omar Khadr looks on during his commissions trial. (Janet Hamlin/HANDOUT)

BRYN WEESE, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 7:12 PM ET

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba — Canadian terrorist Omar Khadr took the stand here Thursday and apologized to his victim’s widow in what was a very emotional day in court.

“I’m really, really sorry for the pain I’ve caused you and your family,” he said, standing in court and looking towards Tabitha Speer. “I wish I could do something that would take this pain away from you.”

Khadr killed Tabitha’s husband, Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, with a grenade in a July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan when Khadr was 15 years old.

But Speer’s widow clutched the hands of those next to her and shook her head from side to side as Khadr spoke, and sobbed afterwards.

Earlier Thursday, an eloquent and dignified but emotional Speer had words for Khadr, too.

“You will forever be a murderer in my eyes,” she said during her nearly hour-long testimony. “It doesn’t matter what you say from this day on.

“I hear over and over how he’s the victim, he’s the child. I don’t see that. The victims — the children — are my children. Not you,” she added. “They’re the ones hurting. You made a choice; my children had no choice.”

Khadr’s unsworn statement, which closed out Thursday’s proceedings in his sentencing hearing, was not under oath but also not subject to cross-examination.

In it, he told the jury how he wanted to be a doctor, to “relieve” those from the physical and emotional pain he knows too well.

He also said, despite what people have said about him here in court, he has no anger or hatred in his heart.

“You’re not going to gain anything from hate,” he said. “Love and forgiveness are more constructive, and will bring people together ... and solve a lot of problems.”

Earlier, Khadr hung his head low as photos of Speer with his two children — who were nine months and three years old when he deployed — flashed on the screen in court earlier.

Tabitha described her husband as a selfless wonder who always put his family first.

She even read letters from their children addressed to Khadr directly.

“I’m mad at you for what you did to my family. Because of you, my dad never got to see me play soccer or go to kindergarten,” read 11-year-old daughter Taryn’s letter. “You make me really sad. I’m mad at you because of that.”

Nine-year-old Tanner, who has no memories of his father, wrote that Khadr had torn an “open hole” in their family and should go to jail because of it.

But whenever he gets out, Khadr talked about his hopes and dreams for a life beyond the Guantanamo Bay detention centre where he’s been held since Oct. 2002, when he was 15.

“That’s my biggest dream — my biggest wish is to get out of this place,” he said. “Being in this place, I’ve really known and understood the beauties and wonders of life.

“I want to have the chance to have true relationships, an experience I’ve never had in my life.”

On Monday, Khadr plead guilty to his war crimes of murder, attempted murder, supporting terrorism, conspiracy and spying in exchange for a reported eight-year sentence, with the last seven years to be served in Canada.

Khadr’s sentencing hearing is expected to wrap up Thursday following closing arguments. The seven-member military jury’s sentencing decision will only apply if they hand down a lesser sentence than the one agreed to in the plea bargain.

bryn.weese@sunmedia.ca


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